Upside down – a new perspective

by | Nov 17, 2013 | 2 comments

As a child, I used to love acrobatics and dance. Next to music, using my body to dance, stretch and twirl made me feel good. It was fun, playful and expressive. Yet, as I got older, it was like I somehow forgot and as life got busier, being playful and having fun were pushed to the bottom of the list.  Not intentionally.  But when you’re busy with work and raising a family, you just somehow .. forget.

One day, while at a yoga class, the instructor happily announced we were going to do handstands. It had literally been over 30 years since I did any form of handstands. I was excited yet a bit intimidated. I wasn’t exactly sure that I was going to be able to do it, but nonetheless I was determined to try. Moving towards the wall, I pressed my hands on the floor and kicked up. Of course, my first attempt was a fail. But after a few more tries, I did it! There I hung, upside down, feeling the blood rush to my head. Loving the feeling yet afraid to open my eyes for fear that if I really took in the fact that I was upside down, I might lose balance and fall on my head. Needless to say, I was hooked.  

I realized that being upside down had renewed me in a way. It made me feel like a kid, full of life and more importantly, joyful…happy. Since that day, handstands have been a part of my life.  Whether it’s with my kids at home, at the gym, or out travelling the world, I always find an opportunity to be upside down.

I get asked a lot why I do handstands, and my answer is always; because it’s fun!

That is usually sufficient for those that applaud my efforts, but to others, it usually causes a scrunched up look of amusement in their faces followed by a head tilt, and then questions as to whether it’s safe or healthy.

I get that I’m not a professional yogi or gymnast. I understand that I could hurt myself, and I have. But, there is something about being upside down that nourishes me. So, I began doing some research, and as it turns out, there are in fact health benefits to handstands.

Before I go on to list my top 3 reasons why handstands are good for me and why I do them, I will add the following disclaimer: There are contraindications to being upside down and those include, but are not limited to, those individuals who are pregnant, have a heart condition, high blood pressure and previous back/neck injury. Please check with your doctor before attempting any new form of physical activity.

My top 3 reasons for doing handstands:

1) Handstands are fun. It has been shown that handstands have a positive effect on mood. As the blood rushes to your head, it stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete Endorphins, those feel good chemicals that help elevate mood and make you feel happy. It also helps to increase the circulation of blood and lymph through the body, which helps to collect and eliminate any toxins in the body, thus improving your immune system.

2) It is a workout. I have absolutely gotten stronger, both in my core and arms since doing handstands. I can now play with different variations because I can hold myself up longer. I’ve also noticed more definition in the muscle tone in my arms and back. The process of kicking up your legs, holding your body weight up with your arms, while keeping your back and core engaged is a great way to build strength, coordination and improve your ability to concentrate. You have to be mindful of everything you are doing while performing a handstand. So you not only get physical benefits but mental ones as well.

3) It’s a perspective shift, both literally and figuratively. There is something quirky yet enlightening about viewing the world upside down. As soon as I was confident enough to open my eyes, I was amazed at the upside down perspective I gained. It literally shifted the way I viewed things. There is no way you can be angry, or sad while hanging out upside down. Try it! Inevitably you may have some resistance or fear to doing a handstand and when you are able to push through that, you bring forth lessons in courage, determination and trust. You need to have courage to start, determination to keep trying and trust that your feet will find the wall and the ground will support you.

For me it started off as a yoga pose, but handstands have become such a big part of my life. It’s the first thing I do when I’m stressed or tired. It’s a fun activity that I do with my kids, and lately, it seems to be the mark I leave behind every place I go. I’ve even started taking pictures of myself doing handstands in all the places I’ve visited. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.